Some of the biggest medical advances of the last few decades have been in diagnostic imaging — Computerized Tomography (CT), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and more. These advances have improved additional technology developments such as smaller cameras, faster processors, and real-time data streaming- all have transformed how physicians use imaging during procedures. One of the most recent technological advances is Augmented Reality in surgery.
Every operation uses some sort of scan before incision
Even in emergencies, surgeons have an ultrasound or CT available to help quickly guide the doctors during their procedure. Imaging can now be performed efficiently and with previously unimaginable speed at the point-of-care during procedures. This accessibility to the fundamental view of the patient during surgery means the world when seconds count in saving lives.
While imaging has evolved rapidly, the way we view this newly developed technology is the same as we did during the Cold War. Essential visuals to the operation are always displayed on 2D flat screens. These displays force doctors to look away from the patient and they’re while operating. Doctors must then use their imagination and skill to understand what they see in the scans. Several types of visual data are shown independently. Therefore doctors must mentally merge several scan types, then envision these images into an accurate representation of the patient. Learning these skills takes years of training.
Augmented Reality in Surgery
Augmented Reality (AR), a technology that superimposes digital information on the physical world, has the potential to change all of this. Researchers at Harvard, Stanford, Duke, and Johns Hopkins are field-testing augmented reality in the medical field. In this modern development, a surgeon could use augmented reality in medicine via an AR headset such as Microsoft’s HoloLens, and would be able to see the digital images and overlaid onto the real world.
XRHealth launched its ARHealth platform on the HoloLens to aid in the rehab and pain distraction of its patients. The eye-tracking technology is also able to monitor a consistent psychological assessment based on the movement of eyes, as well as other key vitals.
Physicians at the Imperial College in London have used augmented reality in medicine for pre-operative planning of plastic surgery procedures. This typically involves using CT scans to estimate the location of blood vessels that supply essential nutrients during surgery. Doctors were able to take out the guesswork when using the HoloLens.
Using this technology to impose virtual overlays offer dramatically improved sharing of knowledge from hospital to practices across the world. Niche medical specialists will be able to direct surgeons remotely around the world or view annotated AR scans to offer advice. This opens a world of endless possibilities that were previously unobtainable because of logistical measures.
By saving physicians’ time, AR will free up a greater percentage of their day. This allows surgeons to engage in face-to-face contact, establishing trust, compassion, and an opportunity to educate healthcare consumers.